Technology has already become a critical part of our everyday lives and will increasingly assert its influence in the workplace. Over the next 20 years, our workforces will be fundamentally transformed by technology, with many existing jobs and career paths replaced entirely.
The next generation’s ability to simultaneously navigate both physical and digital environments, as well as diverse ways of working, will be critical to their future success.
Technology has the power to enrich learning if it’s planned and delivered in a way that unlocks its full potential. But while a lot of schools have invested in technology to prepare for this change, it does not always have a transformative effect.
Until now, most technology strategies aimed to replace traditional tools such as pen and paper for tablets, laptops and other devices. This helps to familiarise children with technology, but it doesn’t necessarily transform the way they learn.
For schools to fully harness the power of technology and link it to educational outcomes, it is important to take a step back and see the wood for the trees.
How to take a stepwise approach in the right direction
A simple, practical way to measure the transformative use of technology is the SAMR Model, which stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition.
SAMR helps define the level of impact that a piece of tech has on a learning activity and provides a framework for progressing through different degrees of digital adoption, offering a more holistic approach.
Most schools are succeeding in the enhancement stages of the model. This includes substitution of a physical tool with a digital one, such as using online maps instead of an atlas, and, augmentation where the technology improves the way the task is completed, such as using online video content to better explain an idea.
These stages help enhance the experience of learning, but there is no transformative educational benefit. Technology therefore fails to reach its full potential, resulting in an underutilisation of investment.
Push past the barriers to reap the benefits
Many schools still struggle with digital transformation due to a combination of factors such as impatience, lack of skills, costs, and resistance from staff. In short, it just seems all too hard. Nevertheless, there are several steps schools can take to move beyond these barriers:
- See the bigger picture. The benefits of digital transformation are cumulative and may not happen overnight. In a curriculum focused on measurable, nationalised testing outcomes, it can be difficult to justify the immediate impact of digital integration. It’s critical to see the big picture and understand how we are setting up students (and teachers) for lifelong success.
- Invest in staff training. The people expected to deliver this in schools are on a varied spectrum of competence. Training teachers from the outset of their education, and upskilling existing staff, is essential to confidently integrate technology into learning plans and guide students on how to use it themselves.
- Bring them on the journey. Teachers need a clear reason to be motivated enough to take their lesson plan beyond the tried-and-tested format. For those not entirely on board, strong leadership is required to establish a shared goal and take them from participants of change to invested advocates.
- Move beyond “tech for the sake of tech”. To make the most of the massive investment schools are putting into technology, educators need to start focusing more on technology as a transformative influence on the teaching and learning, which can be measured with models like SAMR.
Modification is when technology has fundamentally altered the way the task is designed. For instance, requesting students to deliver a report in the form of an audio-visual presentation, rather than a written document. On the other hand, redefinition is where technology has allowed for something entirely different to be achieved that wouldn’t have been possible with the original method, like getting students in Australia and Italy teach each other their language in small groups over video conference.
Let’s redefine what we mean by digital and transform our schools
The goal of holistic digital transformation is to allow opportunities for learning and teaching to spread across the entire spectrum of SAMR rather than just focusing on short term gains associated with pure substitution.
By breaking down the use of technology into these definitions, it’s easier to see how to progress technology from a mere tool, to an integral part of developing the knowledge and skills needed now and in the future.
Thinking in these simple steps helps make the seemingly overwhelming task of digital transformation more achievable and helps educators to push the needle further to make technology a meaningful part of student learning.
Trevor Furness is the director of K12 education at Instructure ANZ.